فصل 08

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فصل 08

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Chapter eight

The lover

By the time they left the Doctor’s it had begun to snow, and by the look of the dark clouds there was going to be a storm. So they decided not to go to the police that night. Anyway, Alfred wished to examine the Count’s diaries first to make sure that Rodolfo had got his facts correct. Alfred had two things on his mind that he had not had a chance to talk to Ernest about. He leaned towards Ernest so that he could be heard above the noise of the carriage and the rising storm.

“Did you notice, Ernest, that Rodolfo called Magorsky ‘Doctor Lover’?”

“I’m afraid I missed that, old boy. Why? Do you think that the Doctor is the the Count mentioned in his letter?”

Suddenly the sound of horses approaching the carriage was heard and then a shot rang out. Ernest quickly stuck his head out of the window. Through the falling snow, he could see three riders.

“I think we’re being attacked by the Doctor’s men. I hope you’re a good shot old boy, because it’s the only gun we’ve got.”

Rodolfo was now going faster and the carriage was rolling dangerously from side to side. Another shot rang out, and they heard a cry from Rodolfo. At that, Ernest started climbing out of the window, much to Alfred’s concern.

“Be careful, old boy. They’re out to kill.”

“I’m afraid you’re going to have to join me, dear fellow.

You don’t stand a chance of hitting any of them in here.”

So, both men climbed out on to the carriage roof. Rodolfo had been shot in the arm but was still able to drive the horses. After nearly being thrown off the carriage three times, Alfred finally managed to get onto the carriage roof. He lay down on his stomach and aimed. His first shot knocked one of the riders off his horse. Ernest looked around in surprise.

“I say, well done! You never told me you were such an ace!”

The other two riders followed for a short distance and then dropped behind. Alfred relaxed, but was not happy.

“This doctor will stop at nothing to keep the world from finding out the truth. I think we’ve got a rather unpleasant few days ahead of us.”

“Jolly good show! I was beginning to think things were getting rather boring.”

They reached Dracula Castle without any further adventures. Rodolfo was bleeding badly, but Ernest, who knew quite a lot about first aid, cleaned and dressed the wound. While this was going on, Alfred thought it was a good opportunity to get some straight answers from Rodolfo.

“Rodolfo, did I hear you say that the Count was your father? And if so, why are you pretending to be his servant?”

“I should have told you everything from the beginning, but I have learnt to trust nobody. I am the son of Mania. The Count married her secretly. He brought a priest from far away so that no one would know. But the Count never treated me like a son, more like a servant. That made me bitter, and I hated the Count for that, but I loved him as my father.”

“I see, I see. Now what about Magorsky. Why did you call him Doctor Lover?”

“It is a name he hates. When he was young, he loved a beautiful woman from Vilcea, and they were going to get married. But she left him for another man, a rich man from the town, and after that people made fun of him by calling him ‘The Lover’. It was that which made the doctor hate women, particularly young and beautiful women. I am sure now that ‘The Lover’ killed the Countess.”

“Doesn’t the Count mention it in his diaries?”

“No, you see the Count was such a kind man that he could not believe that others could be evil. He did not know how jealous the Doctor was of him. He did not even hate the Doctor for blackmailing him. The Count was the kindest man.”

“But you say he treated you badly.”

“Yes, you see my mother is not an aristocrat. She is nobody, and so I too am nobody, but I have the Dracula blood in my veins. That is hard to accept.”

“Now this is all jolly interesting, Rodolfo, but who was that fellow on the horse the other night pretending to be the Count?”

Rodolfo looked at the ground and his pale bony face went red.

“I lied to you. It was me. I have a confession to make. I helped the Doctor spread these rumours about the Count. I would ride the Count’s horse through the village whenever the Doctor told me to, so that everybody would think it was the Count. What I did was terrible, but I wanted to hurt the Count for the way he treated me.”

“And it appears that you did. Well, there’s no point in crying over spilt milk. The important thing is to keep those diaries safe for the police and try and prove that you are the Count’s son. Does he mention it anywhere in his diaries?”

“No. I have read them all.”

“I can’t believe that if the Count was such a kind man he would not recognise you as his son. We’ve got to search the castle high and low. Ernest, do you have any ideas where the Count could have hidden a letter or a will or something?”

Ernest, who was warming himself in front of the fire, looked thoughtful.

“Well, it was your idea really, old boy. You thought the Count’s cane might be hollow.”

“Yes, of course. I’d completely forgotten.”

“Deliberately, perhaps? You don’t share my interest in coffins, do you, old chap? So it looks as if we’ve got work to do tonight.”

“In this weather?”

“Sometimes Alfred, you surprise me. You call yourself a reporter, and yet you like putting things off. Yes, tonight! Not that I think we’ll see the vampire bat, I’m afraid. It’s too cold.”

“Well, at least that’s one good thing.”

After supper they again set out with spades. This time Rodolfo came with them, though he had a great fear of ghosts. The snow was falling in large flakes, and the wind was bitterly cold. By the time they reached the cemetery, everything was so white that they could see their way without lamps. It took them about half an hour to dig down to the Count’s coffin. At the sound of his spade on the coffin, Rodolfo jumped out of the grave.

“I am sorry Sir Alfred, but the rest you must do alone.”

“I agree with you, old fellow. I can’t stand this part. To tell you the truth, I just keep my eyes closed. I leave it all to Ernest. He enjoys it.”

The snow was falling so fast that already a white layer covered the top of the coffin. Ernest was removing the lid.

“I wonder if we’ll see the end of my dream?”

“Have the white fingers started to appear then?”

Ernest laughed and pulled off the lid. Ernest could not believe his eyes. The Count’s face seemed younger and more alive than ever. And the eyes had opened again. For a moment he thought the Count was going to speak.

“Alfred, can you help me turn the Count? I the cane.”

“Do I have to?”

They both lifted the Count over and underneath found the cane.

“That’s funny. I thought I left the cane on top of him. Ah, well, let’s see if all this was a waste of time or not.”

Ernest began to unscrew the handle. When he had finished, he turned it over and tapped the end. Sure enough, a piece of thick paper fell out the end.

“Bingo! What does it say on the top, Alfred?”

“I can only just see but… Yes, ‘Lastwill and testament’… I think.”

“Wonderful! Let’s put the Count back to rest, hopefully for the last time.”

When they had got him laid on his back, Ernest noticed something very strange.

“Good heavens! His eyes have closed, and his face…”

“What about it?”

“It actually looks dead this time, but it’s as if he’s smiling. I believed in ghosts, I’d swear that he knew everything that has gone on in the last few days.”

“But you don’t, do you, Ernest?”

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